Claims about transistors

Today, humanity fabricates 1,000 times more transistors annually than the entire world grows grains of wheat and rice combined. Collectively, all those transistors consume more electricity than the state of California.

Here is more from Mark P. Mills.  Via Auren Hoffman.


I think it's pretty accurate.

Wikipedia estimates 2016 wheat production to be 749 million tonnes, and 2014 rice production to be 741 million tonnes. A tonne of either comes to ~15432358 grains. Some quick math puts that at ~230 x10^14 grains of rice and wheat.

I found some conflicting numbers on transistor count, but in 2014 it seems to have been ~250 x 10^18, making it about 1000x more than the number of grains of rice and wheat. Given that transistor density has only increased since then, it wouldn't surprise me if the numbers in 2018 put transistors further ahead of the grains.

"making it about 1000x more than the number of grains of rice and wheat"

That's actually off by an order of magnitude: 10^18 is 10,000 more than 10^14.

Obviously I mean to say 10,000 TIMES more -- not just 10,000 more :)

The story doesn't include the energy consumed to mine and prepare the raw materials and to fabricate the product. I think we found the cause of global warming. Thank god now we can go back to muscle cars...

Too bad you don't demand a muscle car with 14 nanometer wheels. Global warming *would* be over.

This is all about size, and the fact that nothing else humans desire gets more valuable as it gets smaller. Just the transistor.

14 nanometer rice grains don't have much demand either.

Also this: "Xilinx's Everest/Versal has the largest transistor count, containing around 50 billion transistors" . Just one FPGA chip has 50 billion transistors, which I bet is a lot of wheat (50 billion seeds).

Bonus trivia: if you want to give a king a fit and maybe lose your head, ask him that you receive double the number of grains as the number of squares on a chessboard, that is, ask for 2^64 grains. Brainy grainy, O(2^N).

Hey look, the graphic for the Xilinx Versal is the same as that used for the Chinese edition of Modern Principles of Economics:

I guess one of the prinicples is "People will sell the same thing twice when they can get away with it."

Good one Javier. In China, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the USA, it's copyright infringement.

The point MIlls is making is that the logic engine (data) is rapidly replacing the mechanical (combustion) engine. Is that a good thing? Maybe. Investing in the logic engine (the returns - increased efficiency - are enormous) beats investing in the mechanical engine (the returns - increased efficiency - are relatively small), so the former will supersede the latter leaving us, where exactly? With too few grains of wheat and rice? One cannot survive on a diet of virtual food, can one?

Ask Robin Hanson, get uploaded as an em, and be virtual yourself!

A self-driving car is a virtual car (a logic engine) that is tethered to an inefficient mechanical car. If one uses the virtual car to get to the super market, why not avoid the inefficient mechanical car and go to the virtual super market (another logic engine) instead. You get the idea where we are headed. Again, is that a good thing? Maybe.

This is just what Andreessen and Horowitz described as the future in their conversation with Cowen.

Quick sniff test says this is in the ballpark....

Annual Wheat Production: 757.92 million metric tons
grams per metric ton: 1,000,000 grams/metric ton
Density of wheat: 25 grains per gram

Annual production: 18,948,000,000 million grains of wheat
Annual production: 1.89E+16 grains/year

Transistors per year (2015) 250 x 10^18 Transistors per year


...ahh, Daniel was faster than me.

But your reply is much better sourced!

So that is it. "Let them eat transistors".

How apt is it to compare one transistor, created as an integral assembly with millions of others, to one discrete grain of wheat or rice? Maybe a single transistor would be better compared to a single ribosome within a grain of rice.

A vlogger/influencer with real followers, that's newsworthy.

Tyler may be right. Facebook's pivot to video died, Twitter killed Vine, while Youtube is there.

That's what we should call some of the sex-change people: trans-sisters.

It sounds rather sweet.

The news about them: re-sisters. Their promoters: as-sisters. Those anal about that: in-sisters. Gender neutral: per-sisters. The victims: sub-sisters.

Verbose Tyler followers when given a nudge: thyr-istors. Those oppose: thyre-sisters.

"Collectively, all those transistors consume more electricity than the state of California."

The author talked like a biased greenie. A more neutral measure is electricity per unit output which is less. Just because the demands have gone up and blame that on the technology. To satisfy that extra demands using the old technology very much more electricity will be consumed.

Unsatisfied demands will always be there and the technology throttles the feasible supply.

That's what I like...understatement.

"Because of Moore’s Law, CPUs now run so hot – a direct consequence of speed"

The author was putting words into Moore's mouth. Moore did not say anything about speed or frequency. """Moore wrote only about the density of components, "a component being a transistor, resistor, diode or capacitor",[104] at minimum cost."""

For a given computing power, the reduction in separation technically require a reduction in voltage or sparks may jump the gaps, with the consequence of reduction in power consumption. However, for the same computing power even operating at lower voltage at the same speed there are problems with heat dissipation from dense structure, i.e. other than the consequence of speed. Nevertheless the designers know that more computing power is possible with higher operating frequency, and that is not Moore's law, it is "Dennard scaling" which states that it is possible per generation that "circuit becomes 40% faster".

About a million atoms of silicon per transistor? Please correct me. Leave the sand on the beach, it will still consume the solar energy, in a confused re-radiated mess, but the electricity usage should be the same.

Gordon Moore has indeed been an amazing technological prophet.
This exponential reduction in computation cost seems to presage a Singularity. For Kurzweil it’s circa 2045 (naturally he wants it to happen in his lifetime), for W. Nordhaus it’s more like a century away.
What happens when the earth silicon computation rate reaches 10^30, 10^40 ... 10^50 computations per second. ?
A better version of 140 characters or something truly profund?

When bots talk to each other using plain text and the results are a logical conclusion? Then all the transistors will follow the plain text, and we get singularity.

Well, the iPhone has somewhere around 200 billion transistors in it, yet fits in your pocket. How much space does 200 billion grains of wheat or rice occupy? Not to mention, it is easier and quicker to make transistors than to grow wheat or rice.

As for energy consumption, that depends on usage, given the transistor by its nature is used as a fast switch so likely to be off for the majority of the time.

What would the iPhone take if it used ENIAC technology:

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